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Thompson Endorses Hiring Private-Practice Teachers

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Wisconsin school districts would be able to contract with teachers in private practice, under a proposal included in a lengthy list of school-reform ideas offered by Gov. Tommy G. Thompson in his State of the State Address.

"The best teachers should have the option to enter the marketplace,'' Mr. Thompson said last month. "This in turn would allow schools to add diversity to their curriculum by hiring teachers to teach a particular subject which might not justify hiring a full-time staff member.''

Mr. Thompson also outlined proposals to:

Permit schools to obtain waivers from state regulations that hindered their ability to try innovative education programs;

Give bonus grants for schools that show improvement;

Create a panel to set education goals for the state and develop and oversee a system to measure schools' progress in meeting those goals;

Issue report cards on every school and mandate achievement testing for all students in grades 3, 5, 7, 9, and 10;

Allow high-school juniors and seniors to take courses for free at any state postsecondary school; and

Transform auditors for the state education department into school-improvement teams aiding "low performing" school districts.

The Governor chose most of those proposals from a wide-ranging report on school-improvement proposals issued in December by a state panel. (See Education Week, Dec. 5, 1990.)

A spokesman for Mr. Thompson said he highlighted a few of the least-expensive ideas from the re4port for now because of the state's tightening economic situation.

"The Governor is committed to implementing all the items" in the report, said the spokesman, Stephanie Smith, "but he will have to do it in stages in his budget proposals."

Mr. Thompson said he would introduce the remainder of the proposals in the fall as part of a legislative package.--dv

OKLAHOMA

Walters Backs Funding To Implement Reforms

Gov. David Walters of Oklahoma last week outlined his plans to fulfill the mandates of House Bill 1017, a school-reform and tax bill passed by the legislature last year and still under attack by a repeal campaign.

In his State of the State Address, Mr. Walters pledged to increase funding for elementary and secondary education by more than $100 million, in keeping with the mandates of HB 1017.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has yet to rule on the validity of petitions calling for a ballot measure that would repeal HB 1017, said Sandy Garrett, the state's education secretary and school superintendent.

Under the budget and HB 1017's reforms, teacher salaries would go up by $1,500, half-day kindergarten classes would begin statewide, and K-3 class sizes would decrease to 20 children, Ms. Garrett said.

Spending in the budget for elementary and secondary education would increase by about $81 million over the 1991 level. But the Governor said other monies, such as funds earmarked from motor-vehicle taxes and budget cuts in educational administration, would help bring the total increase to $100.7 million.

In his speech, the Governor also proposed a $300-million bond package that, if approved by the legislature and voters, would provide $35 million for a fiber-optic telecommunications network and computers for precollegiate classrooms.

The bond issue also would provide $23 million to upgrade equipment in vocational and technical schools, Ms. Garrett said, and add two such schools to the current 43 statewide.

Higher education would receive $230 million under the bond issue.--ml


DELAWARE

Castle Seeks Savings Through Consolidation

Gov. Michael N. Castle of Delaware has proposed to achieve a 15.4 percent reduction in state education spending by consolidating most such programs into four broad block grants, thus giving local districts authority over where to cut.

"What I offer today is a first step toward ... providing our educators with the flexibility to meet individual school needs," said Mr. Castle late last month in presenting his proposed budget for fiscal 1992.

Instead of 30 line-items, education programs would fall into four broad categories: contractual services, adult education and workforce training, professional accountability and instructional advancement, and ancillary education services.

Funding would total $26.2 milel10llion--15.4 percent less than the 30 separate programs received this year, said Kent Cashell, state fiscal and policy analyst for public education.

Mr. Cashell stressed that the change was aimed at education reform, not just at saving money.

"I would stand by this proposal even without a shortfall," he said.

In his State of the State Address last month, Governor Castle stressed that public-education funding would not be significantly hurt by the state's declining revenue, which dropped by almost $100 million last year.

But he acknowledged that the 4.9 percent increase in public education funding would be swallowed almost completely by rising enrollment.

He pledged to use any extra money to beef up the state's 20-year-old equalization fund, which directs aid to the neediest districts.--jw

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